Merkel’s children: living legacies named Angela, Angie and sometimes Merkel

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“She will only eat German!” said Mrs. Maai of little Angela, now five.

The fall of 2015 was an extraordinary moment of compassion and redemption for the country that perpetrated the Holocaust. Many Germans call it their ‘autumn fairy tale’. But it also provoked years of populist backlash, encouraging illiberal leaders like Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban and catapulting a far-right party into Germany’s own parliament for the first time since World War II.

Today, European border guards use violence against migrants. Refugee camps remain in misery. And European leaders are paying Turkey and Libya to prevent those in need from taking the trip in the first place. During the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, a chorus of Europeans were quick to claim that refugees would not be welcome on the continent.

“There are two stories here: one is a success story and the other is a story of horrific failure,” said Gerald Knaus, the founder of the European Stability Initiative, who informally advised Ms Merkel on migration for over a decade. Merkel did the right thing in Germany. But she lost the issue in Europe.”

Mhmad and Widad fled war, torture and chaos in Syria and now live on Sunshine Street in the West German city of Gelsenkirchen. In their living room on the third floor, a close-up of Mrs Merkel’s smiling face is the screensaver on the large flat screen television, a constant presence.

“She is our guardian angel,” said Widad, a 35-year-old mother of six, who asked to identify her and her relatives by first names only to protect relatives in Syria. “Angela Merkel did something great, something beautiful, something Arab leaders didn’t do for us.”

“We have nothing to pay her back,” she added. “So we named our daughter after her.”

Angela, or Angie as her parents call her, is now 5. Angie is a lively girl with big hazel eyes and wavy curls. She likes to tell stories, in German, with her five siblings. Her sister Haddia, 13, wants to be a dentist. Fatima (11) likes mathematics.

“There is no difference here between boys and girls in school and that is good,” Widad said. “I hope Angie will grow up to be Mrs Merkel: a strong woman with a big heart.”

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